Date: December 25, 2012
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was recently acquitted of apostasy, has been returned to prison on an earlier charge, rights activists told BosNewsLife late Tuesday, December 25.
"Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to jail on the orders of the director of Lakan Prison, who claimed he had been released several days too early due to the insistence of his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah," said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"The pastor has now been returned to prison to serve the remainder of this time and to complete paperwork" that allegedly was not finished during his release in September, CSW added.
In September, a court acquitted Pastor Nadarkhani of "apostasy", the word used for abandoning Islam, but sentenced him to three years for evangelizing Muslims.
Since he had already spent nearly three years in Lakan Prison in Rasht, the pastor was released after posting bail.
The apparent decision to force him to complete that term came as another setback for his Church of Iran, a major evangelical house church movement.
Another prominemt leader of the church, Pastor Behnam Irani, also spent Christmas behind bars and may not survive the remaining five years of his prison term, rights activists said.
Iranian Christians have told BosNewsLife that he was previously beaten by fellow inmates and guards of the Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj city, one of the toughest jails in the country, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the nation's capital Tehran.
CSW told BosNewsLife it was deeply dissappointed about the latest developments in the strict Islamic nation.
"We are disappointed to hear Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to prison in such an irregular manner," said Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive.
"The timing is insensitive and especially sad for his wife and sons, who must have been looking forward to celebrating Christmas with him for the first time in three years," Thomas stressed.
"We hope that Pastor Nadarkhani will be released without delay once this alleged sentence has been fully served."
He said his group has asked supporters "for prayers for the pastor's safety, and for his family at this difficult time."
In November, Pastor Nadarkhani was a special guest at CSW's National Conference in London, where he thanked all who had prayed and petitioned for him during his initial incarceration.
There was no immediate reaction from Iranian officials, but they have expressed concerns about the growing house churches in the country.